Down the Home Stretch

We are in week three of the build and despite continuing difficulties with the weather, incorporating new members of the volunteer crew, and having to kind of relearn everything we used to be able to do with our eyes closed, Black Rock City is coming into shape nicely, according to city superintendent Tony “Coyote” Perez.
His operative word of the year is “clunky.” “Everything is taking a good amount of time to get going because of continuing supply chain issues. The fact that it’s been three years since anybody did this…everything is stuck closed,” Tony said. Even the gas caps need vice grips to open. Here we are racing towards the gates opening next weekend, when 80,000 participants are expected to descend on the city. Here they come, so we better be ready. “Every object at rest tends to stay at rest, and after three years it takes a lot to get those objects moving again.” 

But Coyote is also quite enthused by the new energy all of the new recruits have brought with them. Coyote said it’s a little bit like the old days, “There’s a lot that we have to face and work our way through, but we’re here and we’re doing it. It’s getting done and it feels good.” The Man is up, as he normally is by the Saturday night before the gates open.

The Man is green this year, the color of hope and the color of rebirth. It is part of a four-year cycle of colors envisioned by Nick Raddell aka Smoke Daddy after Burning Man founder Larry Harvey’s death in 2018. That year, the Man was blue, the color of mourning. The next year he was purple and lined with blue and gold accents, the colors of being beaten up and, as Smoke Daddy says, “Even in the most desperate situation there are bright points to look forward to.” This year the Man will also have accents of gold to have this symbolic shining through of rebirth and renewal. He is out there glowing green with hope and rebirth, no less a symbol of hope and yearning than the green light at the end of Daisey’s dock in “The Great Gatsby,” and participants will look to it with perhaps no less yearning than Jay Gatsby.

As for us, we don’t know yet if our reach has exceeded our grasp. We don’t know if this will propel us forward in our recovery or hurl us backward.


All photos courtesy of John Curley

About the author: John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person in a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.

11 Comments on “Down the Home Stretch

  • Juno says:

    You’ve done it again, Mr Curley. Thank you for your words and pictures. And all the heart you put into what you do.

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  • IndianSummer says:

    Whoa! Thank you for sharing these ´ behind the scene’ so beautifully narrated.
    We ALL should read and know how much amount of this true labor of Love is done by these crews, before we all show up fresh and ready to use these infrastructures! Bravissimo! Et merci

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  • Cynthia B says:

    Thanks for sharing, John Curley. Always loved your work dating back to SF Chron days.

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  • W.S. says:

    80,000 participants? The ticketing site suggests 57,000 tickets were sold.

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    • Kirsten Weisenburger says:

      Doing ticket math from afar is a slippery slope. In total there will be 80k humans in BRC in 2022, but not everyone acquires a ticket through the sales. Many many staff — year round, seasonal, etc…. and this includes volunteers (who are also staff) — have access to tickets for the hard work they do building and supporting BRC during Build Week, Burn Week and throughout the year.

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    • Voo-Doo says:

      I asked them myself and was told.volunteers do not get a free ticket .- because we need the ticket money to put on BM

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      • Kirsten Weisenburger says:

        Corrected my comment above — volunteers sometimes get access to tickets. And yes, ALL BRC participants are volunteers in one capacity or another. Some dedicate weeks, months, years, and their entire Build and Burn Week to making BRC happen.

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  • kbot says:

    Love the Gatsby reference.

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  • Ali s says:

    All blessings abound

    To say the most. Well written and profoundly enjoyed.

    A strange insight to investigate
    Will be those new to this magic metropolis of fire air sweat and being free

    Would be how the people coming to come just to say they were there.
    How to remove that energy and set them back into the truth of the burner creed

    I pledge allegiance
    To the collective community
    That listens respects and grows each other

    Caring sharing and assisting without selfish motives of return

    But to celebrate the energy
    Of LIFE
    COMMUNITY
    AND FREEDOM FOR ALL❤️

    all good come to these that are. Pure of heart

    You are HERE TO BALANCE US BACK TO JOY:)

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